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FEARLESS - THE HUNTERWALI STORY

India, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Riyard Vinci Wadia

"HEYYY!" she would belt out her trademark cry, and briskly proceed to whip men, toss them over her shoulders, and punch them in their collective solar plexuses. She would swing from chandeliers, throw goons off the roof of speeding trains, even leap from horseback onto a ladder dangling from an aeroplane and all without a stand-in in sight. The epitome of brazen panache, Fearless Nadia, aka Mary Evans, was born in Perth of English/Greek parentage and thundered into the hearts of the Indian movie-going audience in Bombay with the 1935 film, Hunterwali. Sporting shorts, sequined jackets, knee-high riding boots, gloves, a mask and a whip she had men, women, even children dancing to her masochistic tango and she spawned an entire genre, the stunt film. Stunt films rode the crest of popularity in the 30s, 40s and 50s and none were more popular than those starring Fearless Nadia, an icon of good against evil and arguably the Indian screen's first feminist.

Interviews with Nadia herself, co-actors, filmmakers and critics plus an array of tantalising clips from her many films (she made over fifty features) combine to make this documentary an entertaining tribute to a legendary stunt actor and extraordinary woman, as well as a curious insight into the complexities of Indian culture. Director Riyad Vinci Wadia, the grandson of Nadia's favoured director J. B. H. Wadia has brought to life, and to a new audience, an entire era of forgotten film history as well as a star that once seen will never be forgotten.

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